Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States: In answer to audience questions during a Lecture, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"
FEBRUARY 26, 2015
By Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova
A nation historically built on immigration, approximately 41.3 million immigrants lived in the United States in 2013, accounting for 13 percent of the overall U.S. population. (Photo: Ludovic Bertron)
Immigration has a significant impact on many aspects of life in the United States, from the workforce and the classroom to communities across the country. As such, many seek to know more about those who were born abroad and now make their lives here, whether as naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, refugees and asylees, international students and others on long-term temporary visas, or unauthorized immigrants. In 2013, approximately 41.3 million immigrants lived in the United States, an all-time high for a nation historically built on immigration. The United States remains a popular destination attracting about 20 percent of the world's international migrants, even as it represents less than 5 percent of the global population. Immigrants accounted for 13 percent of the total 316 million U.S. residents; adding the U.S.-born children (of all ages) of immigrants means that approximately 80 million people, or one-quarter of the overall U.S. population, is either of the first or second generation.
This article seeks to provide the latest data in one easily accessible resource, bringing together some of the most frequently requested current and historical facts and figures about immigrants and immigration in the United States. It answers questions such as: How do today's top source countries compare to those 50 years ago? How many visas does the Department of State issue? How many people gained green cards last year? How many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States? How many children live with immigrant parents? What jobs do immigrants hold? How many unauthorized migrants have been deported?
The article compiles resources from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI); the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), 2013 Current Population Survey (CPS), and 2000 decennial census; the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State; Mexico's National Population Council (CONAPO) and National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI); and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).
Click on the bullet points below for more information on each topic:
"Foreign born" and "immigrant" are used interchangeably and refer to persons with no U.S. citizenship at birth. This population includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, persons on certain temporary visas, and the unauthorized.
Geographical regions: MPI follows the definition of Latin America as put forth by the United Nations and U.S. Census Bureau, which includes Central America (including Mexico), the Caribbean, and South America. For more information about geographical regions, see the U.S. Census Bureau and United Nations Statistics Division.
According to estimates from the 2013 ACS, the U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 41.3 million, or 13 percent, of the total U.S. population of 316.1 million. Between 2012 and 2013, the foreign-born population increased by about 523,000, or 1.3 percent.
U.S. immigrants and their U.S.-born children now number approximately 80 million persons, or one-quarter of the overall U.S. population.
What are the historical numbers and shares of immigrants in the United States?
Data on the nativity of the U.S. population were first collected in the 1850 decennial census. That year, there were 2.2 million immigrants in the United States, representing almost 10 percent of the total population.
Between 1860 and 1920, the immigrant share of the total population fluctuated between 13 and 15 percent, peaking at 15 percent in 1890, mainly due to high levels of European immigration.
Restrictive immigration legislation in 1921 and 1924, coupled with the Great Depression and World War II, led to a sharp drop in new arrivals. As a result, the foreign-born share steadily declined between the 1930s and 1970s, reaching a record low of approximately 5 percent in 1970 (9.6 million). Since 1970, the share and number have increased rapidly, mainly as a result of large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia made possible by changes to admission rules adopted by Congress in 1965. Since 1970, the number of U.S. immigrants more than quadrupled as it grew from 9.6 million in 1970 to 41.3 million in 2013.
Table 1: Numerical Size and Share of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States, 1970-2013
Source: Migration Policy Institute tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 and 2013 American Community Surveys, and 1970-2000 decennial Census data.
How do today’s top source countries compare to those 50 years ago?
In 2013, Mexican-born immigrants accounted for approximately 28 percent of the 41.3 million foreign born in the United States, making them by far the largest immigrant group in the country. India was the second largest, closely trailed by China (including Hong Kong but not Taiwan), which both accounted for about 5 percent, while the Philippines (4 percent) was the fourth largest sending country. Vietnam, El Salvador, Cuba, and Korea (3 percent each), as well as the Dominican Republic and Guatemala (2 percent each), complete the top ten countries of origin. Together, immigrants from these ten countries composed close to 60 percent of the U.S. immigrant population in 2013.
The predominance of immigrants from Latin American and Asian countries in the late 20th and early 21st centuries starkly contrasts with the trend seen in 1960 when immigrants largely originated from Europe. Italian-born immigrants made up 13 percent of all foreign born in 1960, followed by those born in Germany and Canada (accounting for about 10 percent each). In the 1960s no single country accounted for more than 15 percent of the total immigrant population.
Find the immigrant group of your interest on the map:
To learn where immigrants from a particular country live in the United States, check out these state and metropolitan area maps.
Interested in learning the largest immigrant groups by particular location? Use these maps to see the top immigrant groups in each state and metropolitan areas.
College-educated persons are defined as adults 25 years and older with a bachelor's degree or higher.
The concept of race as used by the Census Bureau reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. Race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.
Hispanic and Latino are not racial categories. They include individuals who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 questionnaire—"Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano", "Puerto Rican", or "Cuban"—as well as those who indicate that they are "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino."
Persons who indicated that they are "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino" include those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, the Dominican Republic, or people identifying themselves generally as Spanish, Spanish-American, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, and so on.
Demographic, Educational, and Linguistic Characteristics
Note: In some cases percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding.
What is the gender composition of the U.S. immigrant population?
In 2013, approximately 51 percent of the immigrant population was female; the share has fluctuated slightly during the past three decades. Women accounted for 53 percent of immigrants in 1980, 51 percent in 1990, and 50 percent in 2000.
What is the age distribution of the immigrant population?
Overall, the immigrant population in 2013 was older than the U.S.-born population: The median age of immigrants was 43.1 years, compared to 35.9 years for the native born.
In 2013, fewer than 1 percent of the foreign-born population were under the age of 5 (compared to 7 percent for the native born), less than 6 percent were ages 5 to 17 (compared to 19 percent), 80 percent were ages 18 to 64 (compared to 60 percent), and 14 percent were age 65 and older (the same as for the U.S. born).
How many immigrants have entered the United States since 2000?
Twenty-nine percent of the 41.3 million foreign born in the United States in 2013 entered between 2000 and 2009, 10 percent have entered since 2010, and the majority (61 percent) entered before 2000.
How many immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens?
In 2013, close to 47 percent of immigrants (19.3 million) were naturalized U.S. citizens. The remaining 53 percent (22.1 million) included lawful permanent residents, unauthorized immigrants, and legal residents on temporary visas, such as students and temporary workers.
Of the 19.3 million naturalized citizens in the U.S. population as of 2013, 15 percent have naturalized since 2010, 36 percent between 2000 and 2009, and 49 percent prior to 2000.
What is the racial composition of the immigrant population?
Of the foreign born in the United States in 2013, 48 percent reported their race as white, 26 percent as Asian, 9 percent as black, and 15 percent as some other race; more than 2 percent reported having two or more races.
How many immigrants are of Hispanic origin?
In 2013, 46 percent of immigrants (19 million people) reported having Hispanic or Latino origins.
How many Hispanics in the United States are immigrants?
The majority of Hispanics in the United States are native born. Of the 54 million people in 2013 who identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino origin, 35 percent (19 million) were immigrants.
Use our State Immigration Data Profiles tool to learn more about the demographic characteristics of immigrants and the U.S.-born in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as nationally.
Which languages are the most frequently spoken at home in U.S. households?
In 2013, approximately 79 percent (234.6 million) of the U.S. population* ages 5 and older stated that they speak only English at home.
The remaining 21 percent (61.7 million) reported speaking a language other than English at home. Spanish was by far the most common language spoken within this category (62 percent), followed by Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese, 5 percent), Tagalog (almost 3 percent), Vietnamese (2 percent), French (including Cajun and Patois, 2 percent), Korean, Arabic, and German (almost 2 percent each), and Russian (1 percent).
*Note: Refers to the 296.4 million people ages 5 and older who resided in the United States at the time of the survey.
What is the size of the Limited English Proficient population?
In 2013, there were 25.1 million Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals ages 5 and older in the United States, accounting for more than 8 percent of the 296.4 million people ages 5 and older in the country. Spanish speakers accounted for 64 percent (16.2 million) of the total LEP population. The next two languages most commonly spoken by LEP individuals were Chinese, including Mandarin and Cantonese (1.7 million, or 7 percent) and Vietnamese (835,000, or 3 percent).
Note: The term "Limited English Proficient" refers to persons ages 5 and older who reported speaking English "not at all," "not well," or "well" on their survey questionnaire. Individuals who reported speaking only English or speaking English "very well" are considered proficient in English.
In 2013, approximately 50 percent (20.4 million) of the 41.1 million immigrants ages 5 and older were LEP.
What percentage of the adult foreign-born population is college educated?
In 2013, there were 35.7 million immigrants ages 25 and older. Of those, 28 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher compared to 30 percent among native-born adults. In addition, 30 percent of immigrants did not have a high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) certificate versus 10 percent of their native-born counterparts.
Use our State Immigration Data Profiles tool for more information on the language and educational characteristics of immigrants and the U.S. born in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and for the country overall.
What were the top five states in terms of the number of immigrants, share of immigrants in the total state population, absolute growth, and percent growth between 1990 and 2000 and between 2000 and 2013?
In 2013, the top five U.S. states by number of immigrants were California (10.3 million), New York and Texas (4.4 million each), Florida (3.8 million), and New Jersey (1.9 million).
When classified by the share of immigrants out of the total state population, the top five states in 2013 were California (27 percent), New York and New Jersey (22 percent each), and Florida and Nevada (19 percent each).
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the immigrant population were California (2.4 million), Texas (1.4 million), New York (1 million), Florida (1 million), and Illinois (577,000).
Between 2000 and 2013, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the immigrant population were Texas (1.5 million), California (1.4 million), Florida (1.3 million), New York (515,000), and New Jersey (449,000).
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest percent growth* of the immigrant population were North Carolina (274 percent), Georgia (233 percent), Nevada (202 percent), Arkansas (196 percent), and Utah (171 percent).
Between 2000 and 2013, the five states with the largest percent growth* of the immigrant population were South Carolina (99 percent), Tennessee (92 percent), Kentucky (86 percent), Alabama (85 percent), and Arkansas (82 percent).
*Note: In some states, the starting population of the foreign born was quite small. Thus, relatively small absolute increases in the immigrant population in these states have translated into high percent growth.
Mexican immigrants are primarily concentrated in the West and Southwest, and more than half live in California or Texas. In 2013, the top five states with the largest proportion of Mexican immigrants were California (37 percent of the total Mexican immigrant population), Texas (22 percent), Illinois (6 percent), Arizona (4 percent), and Georgia (2 percent).
In 2013, the foreign born from Mexico accounted for more than half of the immigrant population in New Mexico (72 percent), Arizona and Texas (58 percent each), Idaho (53 percent), and Oklahoma (50 percent). By contrast, Mexican-born individuals accounted for 2 percent or less of the immigrant population in Rhode Island (1.8 percent), Maine and Hawaii (1.6 percent each), and Massachusetts (1.2 percent).
How many Mexican-born workers are in the U.S. labor force?
About 70 percent of the 11 million immigrants from Mexico ages 16 and older were in the civilian labor force in 2013. This rate is slightly higher than the labor force participation of the total foreign-born population ages 16 and older (67 percent of 39.4 million immigrants) and the native-born population ages 16 and older (63 percent of 211.4 million U.S. born).
How has the emigration rate from Mexico changed over time?
According to Mexico's National Survey of Occupations and Employment (Encuesta Nacional de Ocupación y Empleo or ENOE), the emigration rate from Mexico (refers to emigrants leaving Mexico regardless of their destination, although most head to the United States) has remained relatively steady between 2008 and 2013, after a drop in 2007 following the start of the recession in the United States and around the world. Between 2008 and 2009 (2nd Quarter, 2008 to 1st Quarter, 2009), 6.4 migrants per 1,000 residents departed Mexico. That rate declined to 5 migrants per 1,000 residents between 2009 and 2010, 3.9 between 2010 and 2011, 3.4 between 2011 and 2012, and has remained at 3.3 migrants per 1,000 residents between 2012 and 2014.
The immigration rate to Mexico (i.e., the number of people who move to Mexico from abroad, who are overwhelmingly return migrants) has also dropped, from 4.4 migrants per 1,000 residents between 2008 and 2009 to 1.5 per 1,000 between 2013 and 2014.
Note: ENOE asks Mexican households to enumerate any members of the household are who living abroad at the time of the interview. Accordingly, it does not capture the emigration of entire families where no member of the household remains in Mexico.
Which areas/regions do most Mexican migrants come from?
According to the Survey of Migration on the Northern Border of Mexico* (Encuesta de Migración en la Frontera Norte de México, or EMIF), the number of immigrants heading from Mexico to the United States decreased steadily from 856,000 in 2007 to 276,000 in 2012. However, this decline appears to reverse in 2013. EMIF estimated that 322,000 immigrants crossed the country's northern border to the United States in 2013—a 17 percent increase from the 2012 estimate.
In 2013, traditional sending states such as Jalisco, Guanajuato, and Michoacán accounted for the largest numbers of the 322,000 Mexican migrants who headed toward the United States, collectively representing 26 percent of the northward flows. Between 2009 and 2013, traditional sending states in northern and central Mexico witnessed a decline in the total outflow, while other states in these regions experienced increased emigration. The most significant drops were recorded in the states of Guanajuato and Sonora. Between 2009 and 2013, migrants from Guanajuato (central Mexico) declined from 13 percent to 8 percent of the total outflow from Mexico. Similarly, migrants from Sonora (northern Mexico, bordering Arizona) declined from 7 percent to 2 percent of the total outflow over the same period. Chihuahua (northern Mexico, bordering Texas) experienced a more than three-fold growth in the share of total outflow (from 1 percent to 4 percent), and Guerrero (central Mexico) doubled its share of the total outflow (from 3 percent to 6 percent).
*Note: EMIF is an annual sample survey of migration flows along Mexico's northern border region conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), National Migration Institute (INM), National Population Council (CONAPO), and College of the Northern Border (COLEF) in Tijuana. The survey excludes Mexicans entering the United States by air, migrants under the age of 15, and non-Mexican nationals crossing the U.S. Southwest border. The category "migrants headed toward the United States" is restricted to those migrants who are traveling to the United States or a Mexican border city, are ages 15 and older, were not born in the United States, and do not have an immediate return itinerary.
Read more about the characteristics of Mexicans migrating to the United States from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI (in Spanish).
How many immigrants in the United States have health insurance?
"Civilian labor force"—civilian persons ages 16 and older who were either employed or unemployed in the week prior to participation in the American Community Survey.
Approximately one-third of immigrants (32 percent) are uninsured, compared to 12 percent of the native-born population, according to the 2013 ACS. Approximately 50 percent of all immigrants in the United States had private health insurance (compared to 67 percent of the native born), and 24 percent had public health insurance coverage (compared to 33 percent of the native born).
Note: Health insurance coverage is only calculated for the civilian, noninstitutionalized population. Since some people may hold both private and public health insurance coverage at the same time, estimates of those with public health insurance and those with public coverage may overlap. Their sum therefore may be greater than the total number of people with health insurance.
What is the foreign-born share of the total U.S. civilian labor force?
Immigrants accounted for nearly 17 percent (26.2 million) of the 158.6 million workers in the civilian labor force in 2013. Between 1970 and 2013, the percentage of foreign-born workers in the civilian labor force more than tripled, from 5 percent to 17 percent. Over the same period, the foreign-born share of the total population grew from almost 5 percent to 13 percent.
Of the 24.2 million employed foreign-born workers ages 16 and older in 2013, 30 percent worked in management, professional, and related occupations; 25 percent in service occupations; 17 percent in sales and office occupations; 15 percent in production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and 13 percent in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.
Table 2. Share of Immigrant and U.S.-Born Workers by Select Occupation, 2013
Note: The percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding. Source: Migration Policy Institute (MPI) tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau 2013 ACS.
Use our State Immigration Data Profiles tool for more information on the workforce characteristics of immigrants and the U.S. born in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as nationally.
How many children in the United States live with immigrant parents?
"Second-generation immigrant children"—any native-born child with at least one foreign-born parent.
"First-generation immigrant children"—any foreign-born child with foreign-born parents.
"Children with immigrant parents"—both first- and second-generation immigrant children.
Note: The estimates in this section include only children ages 17 and under who reside with at least one parent.
In 2013, 17.4 million children under age 18 lived at home with at least one immigrant parent. They accounted for 25 percent of the 69.9 million children under age 18 in the United States.
Second-generation children under age 18—those who were born in the United States to at least one foreign-born parent—accounted for 88 percent (15.3 million) of all children with immigrant parents. The remaining 12 percent (2.1 million) were children living in the United States in 2013 who were born outside the United States to foreign-born parents.
For state-by-state information on children living with immigrant parents, including both first- and second-generation children, see the Children in U.S. Immigrant Families tool.
Read more about second-generation immigrant children in this Migration Information Sourcespecial issue.
How has the number of children ages 0-17 living with immigrant parents changed?
Between 1990 and 2000, the number of children ages 17 and under with immigrant parents grew 60 percent, from 8.2 million to 13.1 million. Between 2000 and 2013, the number grew 33 percent from 13.1 million to 17.4 million.
For first-generation immigrant children (those born outside the United States), population growth was sizeable between 1990 and 2000, increasing 43 percent (from 1.9 million to 2.7 million), but declined 22 percent between 2000 and 2013, from 2.7 million to 2.1 million.
The number of second-generation immigrant children (born in the United States to foreign-born parents) has grown steadily since 1990. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of second-generation immigrant children grew 65 percent (from 6.3 million to 10.4 million). Between 2000 and 2013, this population grew by 47 percent (from 10.4 million to 15.3 million).
In 1990, 13 percent of all children in the United States were living with immigrant parents. This share increased to 19 percent in 2000 and 25 percent in 2013. The share of second-generation children among all children with immigrant parents has grown from 77 percent in 1990 to 80 percent in 2000 and 88 percent in 2013.
How many children living with immigrant parents are in low-income families?
There were 30.7 million children under 18 living in poor families (i.e., with family incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold) in the United States. Of them, almost 9.5 million (or 31 percent) were children of immigrants.
What are the top five states in terms of the number of children living with immigrant parents?
In 2013, the top five states by the total number of children under 18 living with immigrant parents were California (4.3 million), Texas (2.3 million), New York (1.5 million), Florida (1.2 million), and Illinois (784,000). These five states accounted for 58 percent of all children with immigrant parents residing in the United States.
What are the top five states by share of children living with immigrant parents in the state's total child population?
In terms of the share of children under 18 living with immigrant parents, the top five states in 2013 were California (49 percent of all children in the state), Nevada (38 percent), New Jersey (37 percent), New York (36 percent), and Texas (34 percent).
What are the top five states in terms of the absolute growth of the number of children living with immigrant parents?
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the total number of children with immigrant parents were California (1.3 million), Texas (643,000), Florida (384,000), New York (366,000), and Illinois (231,000).
Between 2000 and 2013, the five states with the largest absolute growth of the total number of children living with immigrant parents were Texas (728,000), Florida (319,000), Georgia (248,000), North Carolina (223,000), and California (211,000).
What are the top five states in terms of the percent growth of the number of children living with immigrant parents between 1990 and 2000 and between 2000 and 2012?
Between 1990 and 2000, the five states with the largest percent growth of the total population of children with immigrant parents were Nevada (about 233 percent), North Carolina (about 224 percent), Georgia (about 194 percent), Nebraska (174 percent), and Arkansas (170 percent).
Between 2000 and 2013, the five states with the largest percent growth of the total population of children living with immigrant parents were Tennessee (145 percent), North Carolina (133 percent), Kentucky (128 percent), Arkansas (125 percent), and South Carolina (116 percent).
How many immigrants obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States?
In 2013, 990,553 foreign nationals became lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green-card holders, according to DHS data. The total number of LPRs has decreased since 2011 (1,062,040 in 2011 and 1,031,631 in 2012). New arrivals comprised approximately 46 percent (459,751) of those granted LPR status in 2013. The majority of green-card recipients in 2013 (530,802, or 54 percent) were status adjusters—persons who were already living in the United States before 2013, but whose green-card applications were approved that year. Most status adjusters were formerly one of the following: refugees, asylees, temporary workers, foreign students, family members of U.S. citizens or green-card holders, or unauthorized immigrants.
Under which categories do permanent immigrants enter?
Of the roughly 1 million new LPRs in 2013, 44 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, 21 percent entered through a family-sponsored preference, and 16 percent entered through an employment-based preference. Another 12 percent adjusted from refugee or asylee status, and 5 percent were diversity-lottery winners.
Which countries did permanent immigrants come from?
The top five countries of birth for new LPRs in 2013 were Mexico (14 percent), China and India (7 percent each), the Philippines (5 percent), and the Dominican Republic (4 percent). Approximately 371,000 new LPRs were from one of these top five countries of birth, accounting for about 37 percent of all persons who received LPR status in 2013.
Individuals born in the next five countries—Cuba and Vietnam (3 percent each), and South Korea, Colombia, and Haiti (2 percent each)—contributed another 13 percent of all LPRs. The top ten countries of birth composed half of total LPRs for 2013.
How many people apply for permanent immigration to the United States through the green-card lottery?
The Immigration Act of 1990 established the Diversity Visa Lottery (also known as the DV lottery or the green-card lottery) to allow entry to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The law states that 55,000 diversity visas are made available each fiscal year (FY), of which 5,000 must be used for applicants under the Nicaraguan and Central America Relief Act of 1997, thus reducing the available number to other nationalities to 50,000. In 2013, 45,618 people received LPR status as diversity immigrants, representing close to 5 percent of the nearly 1 million new LPRs.
Before receiving permission to immigrate to the United States, lottery winners must provide proof of a high school education or its equivalent or show two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. They also must pass a medical exam and a background check.
Overall interest in the DV lottery is significantly higher than the 50,000 available visas; close to 9.4 million qualified applications were registered for the DV-2015 program. (The application number varies each year depending on which countries are eligible).
Check out the full list of qualified entries by country for DV-2007 to DV-2013 here.
What is the total number of temporary admissions to the United States?
The total number of nonimmigrant (temporary) admissions* for 2013 was approximately 173 million, including primarily tourists, business travelers, and international students. That figure includes an estimated 112 million admissions of travelers who are exempt from completing the I-94 arrival/departure form at the port of entry. (Canadians who travel to the United States for business or pleasure, and Mexicans who possess a nonresident Border Crossing Card [i.e., laser visa] are exempt from completing this form).
Total temporary admissions of I-94 nonimmigrants increased 13 percent from 53.9 million in 2012 to 61.1 million in 2013.
*Note: Nonimmigrant admissions represent the number of arrivals, not the number of individuals admitted to the United States. DHS only reports characteristics of nonimmigrants that have to complete an I-94 arrival/departure form.
How do nonimmigrant admissions break down by visa category?
Temporary visitors (tourists and business travelers) account for an overwhelming majority of all nonimmigrant admissions. In 2013, they represented 90 percent (54.6 million) of all I-94 admissions to the United States. Of those, 48.3 million were tourist admissions and 6.3 million were business-traveler admissions.
Temporary workers and trainees (as well as their spouses and children), including H-1B "specialty occupation" workers, registered nurses, temporary agricultural workers, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional workers, treaty traders, and intracompany transferees, among others, accounted for nearly 3 million arrivals (about 5 percent of total I-94 admissions)
Students who entered the United States to study at academic or vocational institutes made up about 3 percent (close to 1.7 million) of the total arrivals including their family members but not including exchange visitors.
According to the most recently available DHS estimates, about 1.9 million foreign nationals on various temporary visas* resided in the United States on January 1, 2012. Of the 1.9 million, 45 percent were temporary workers and their families, followed by foreign students and their families (38 percent). Fifty-two percent of the 1.9 million temporary visa holders were from Asia. Another quarter came from Europe and North America. The top five countries of origin—India, China, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico—accounted for 54 percent of the 1.9 million residents on temporary visas.
*Note: this estimate excludes tourists and other short-term visitors.
How many visas does the Department of State issue?
The Department of State (DOS) reports the number of visas issued to foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States for the purpose of traveling, conducting business, working, studying, and for other reasons.
In 2013, DOS issued 9,164,349 nonimmigrant visas—a 3 percent increase from the 8,927,090 visas issued in 2012.
The vast majority (77 percent) of the 9.2 million nonimmigrant visas issued in 2013 were temporary business and tourist visas (B-1, B-2, and BCC visas). The next largest visa class (F-1, F-2, and F-3) was for academic students and exchange visitors and their family members, who comprised 6 percent of all nonimmigrant visas issued, followed by H visa categories for temporary workers and trainees and their family members (4 percent).
The distribution by region of the 9.2 million visas issued to foreign nationals in 2013 shows that the majority of temporary visas were issued to nationals from Asia (37 percent), South America (25 percent), and North America (22 percent, including Central America and the Caribbean), followed by Europe (12 percent), Africa (4 percent), and Oceania (0.6 percent).
Notes on Refugees and Asylees
What is the difference between a refugee and an asylee? In the United States, the main difference is the person's location at the time of application.
Refugees are generally outside of the United States when they are considered for resettlement, whereas asylum seekers submit their applications while they are physically present in or at a port of entry to the United States.
Asylum seekers can submit an asylum request either affirmatively or defensively. An asylum seeker present in the United States may submit an asylum request either with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officer (affirmative request), or, if apprehended, with an immigration judge as part of a removal hearing (defensive request). During the interview, an asylum officer will determine whether the applicant meets the definition of a refugee.
Note: The number of visas issued does not necessarily match the number of foreign nationals who entered the United States in the same year because some nonimmigrant visas may not be used.
How many immigrants enter the United States as refugees, and where are they from?
In 2013, 69,909 refugees were admitted to the United States, a roughly 20 percent increase from 2012 (58,179). Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan were the primary countries of nationality for refugees admitted since 2010. The nationals of these three countries made up 64 percent (44,920) of all refugees admitted in 2013. The next seven countries of origin for refugee resettlements in 2013 were Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Altogether, nationals of these ten countries totaled 95 percent (66,624) of all refugee arrivals in 2013.
Each year, the president and Congress set the annual refugee admissions ceiling and regional allocations. For fiscal year (FY) 2015 the ceiling was set at 70,000, same as 2014 (down from 80,000 between 2008 and 2011). The Near East/South Asia regions received 47 percent (33,000) of the total regional allocations in response to refugee crises in Iraq and Burma.
How many foreign born enter the United States as asylees, and where are they from?
In 2013, 25,199 principal applicants and their spouses and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 were granted asylum after seeking protection upon arriving or after arrival in the United States (less than the 29,367 persons in 2012). An additional 13,026 individuals outside of the United States were approved for asylum status as immediate family members of principal applicants. (Note that this number reflects travel documents issued to these family members, not their arrival to the United States.)
China was the top country of origin, with 8,604 Chinese receiving asylum status in 2013. Despite a sharp 15 percent decrease from 10,121 in 2012, China still accounted for a lion’s share of total asylees (34 percent). The next four largest origin groups were from Egypt (3,407), Ethiopia (893), Nepal (854), and Syria (811). Together, nationals of these five countries made up 58 percent of all individuals who received asylum status in 2013.
How many unauthorized immigrants are in the United States?
According to DHS’ Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), an estimated 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants resided in the United States as of January 2012 compared to 11.5 million in January 2011. These results suggest little to no change in the unauthorized immigrant population from 2011 to 2012.
MPI developed detailed profiles with estimates and characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population for the United States overall, 41 states and the District of Columbia, and 94 counties with the largest unauthorized populations.
The highest shares of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants resided in California (28 percent), Texas (13 percent), New York (8 percent), and Florida (6 percent). Together, the top four states accounted for about 55 percent of all unauthorized immigrants. Two-thirds of unauthorized immigrants resided in 94 counties, with the top five counties—Los Angeles, CA; Harris, TX; Cook, IL; Orange, CA; and Queens, NY—accounting for close to 20 percent of all unauthorized immigrants.
See Unauthorized Immigrant Population Profiles for the national, state, and county-level profile of the unauthorized in the United States in 2008-12, as well as estimates of those potentially eligible for deferred action.
Note: The data sources and estimating methodologies used by OIS and MPI to describe the unauthorized population are different. Hence the estimates are not fully comparable, and we urge readers not to mix them. The two organizations cover somewhat different topics. For instance, OIS has estimates on the unauthorized population by period of entry, origin, state of residence, age, and sex. MPI developed unauthorized immigrant population profiles that describe education attainment, labor force characteristics, income, health insurance coverage, home ownership, and eligibility for deferred action programs among other indicators.
Where are unauthorized migrants from?
According to MPI estimates, about 8.1 million (71 percent of the total unauthorized population) unauthorized immigrants in the 2008-12 period were born in Mexico and other Central America countries. About 1.5 million (13 percent) were from Asia; 817,000 (7 percent) from South America; 455,000 (4 percent) from Europe, Canada, or Oceania; 317,000 (3 percent) from Africa; and 225,000 (2 percent) from the Caribbean.
Mexico (58 percent), Guatemala (6 percent), El Salvador (3 percent), Honduras (2 percent), and China (2 percent) were the top five countries of birth of the unauthorized immigrant population.
How many unauthorized immigrants reside with U.S. children under 18?
About 4.1 million unauthorized immigrants (close to 40 percent) in the United States in 2008-12 resided with children under 18, according to MPI estimates. Of this group, about 84 percent (3.5 million) resided with at least one U.S.-citizen child under 18, and 16 percent (671,000) resided with non-U.S. citizen children.
How many people will be eligible for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)?
On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for youth who came to the United States as children and a new program—Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)—that would provide eligible parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents temporary relief from deportation and employment authorization for three years. Launch of the DACA expansion, due to begin in mid-February, and the DAPA program were put on hold by the Obama administration after a U.S. district judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by 26 states against the new deferred action programs.
Prospective beneficiaries for DACA have to meet a series of requirements, including the following:
entered the United States before the age of 16;
have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010;
are of any age;
are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. armed forces (including the Coast Guard); and
have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors; or otherwise pose a threat to public safety or national security.
MPI estimated that about 1.49 million unauthorized youths and young adults (or 13 percent of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants) were eligible to apply under the expanded DACA program because they met both age and education criteria.
Prospective beneficiaries for DAPA have to meet a series of requirements, including the following:
have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010;
had, on November 20, 2014, a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and
MPI estimated that about 3.71 million, or 33 percent of all unauthorized immigrants, who are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and have lived in the United States for at least five years could apply for temporary relief from deportation under the DAPA program. In total, MPI estimates the anticipated new deferred action program and expanded DACA initiative could benefit as many as 5.2 million people—nearly half of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States.
MPI has also developed estimates of the populations potentially eligible for the anticipated deferred action program for key states and counties. The top five counties with the largest populations potentially eligible for relief from deportation through DACA or DAPA—Los Angeles, CA; Harris, TX; Orange, CA; Cook, IL; and Dallas, TX—account for 1.1 million people, over one-fifth of the total potentially eligible population nationwide.
See detailed state and county-level estimates on the DACA & DAPA eligible populations.
How many DACA applications have been received for the initial DACA program since 2012?
The original DACA program was announced on June 15, 2012, and granted two-year deportation relief and employment authorization to eligible youth. The initial program had somewhat stricter requirements as its target was limited to youth under 31 years old who had resided continuously in the United States since June 2007. MPI estimates that approximately 2.1 million people could be eligible for the initial DACA program, including 1.2 million who were immediately eligible.
Between August 15, 2012, when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications, and December 31, 2014, a total of 727,164 applications were accepted for consideration by the agency. Thus, as of December 2014 (the most recent data offered by USCIS at the time of this article’s publication), about 59 percent of the immediately eligible population had applied.
The top states of residence for DACA initial applicants (refers to accepted applications) are California (28 percent), Texas (16 percent), Illinois and New York (5 percent each), and Florida (4 percent). The top countries of origin are Mexico (77 percent), El Salvador (4 percent), Guatemala and Honduras (about 2.5 percent each), and Peru and South Korea (1 percent each).
As of the end of December 2014, 638,897 or 88 percent of the accepted 727,164 initial applications had been approved and 38,597 denied.
On June 5, 2014, USCIS began accepting DACA renewal applications, and as of December 2014, 234,991 renewal applications had been accepted by the agency.
The top states of residence for DACA renewal applicants (refers to accepted applications) are California (27 percent), Texas (18 percent), Illinois (7 percent), and New York and Arizona (4 percent each). The top countries of origin are Mexico (76 percent), El Salvador (4 percent), and Guatemala, Honduras, and South Korea (2 percent each).
By the end of December 2014, 63 percent (148,171) of the accepted 234,991 renewal applications had been approved.
For the most up-to-date DACA application and approval estimates, click here.
For more information from USCIS on the DACA program, click here.
How many apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants are there per year?
There were 662,483 apprehensions in 2013 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the two agencies within DHS responsible for the identification and removal of inadmissible noncitizens. Sixty-four percent of all apprehensions (420,789) were reported by the Border Patrol in 2013, up from 364,768 in 2012. About 98 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions (414,397) occurred along the Southwest border.
Additionally, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations made 229,698 administrative arrests (35 percent of total apprehensions in 2013) and ICE Homeland Security Investigations made 11,996 administrative arrests (2 percent).
The leading countries of nationality of those apprehended in 2013 were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Nationals from these four countries composed 93 percent of all apprehensions, with Mexican nationals constituting the overwhelming majority—64 percent—in 2013 (albeit down from 70 percent in 2012).
Note: Apprehensions are events, not individuals. In other words, the same individual can be apprehended more than once with each apprehension counted separately.
How many people are deported per year?
Both removals and returns* result in the confirmed movement of inadmissible or deportable aliens out of the United States. There were 616,792 removals and returns in 2013, a 5 percent drop from 2012 (648,783 removals and returns).
In 2013, returns accounted for 29 percent (178,371) of total removals and returns, while removals comprised 71 percent (438,421)—an all-time high for removals. The number of removals has generally increased since 1996 when there were 68,657 removals. At the same time, the number of returns has declined, from 1.57 million in 1996 to 178,371 in 2013 (the lowest since 1968), as the government has prioritized using the more formal removals, which make deportees ineligible to return to the United States for at least five years and subject to criminal penalties if they do re-enter.
*Notes: Removals (deportations) are the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable unauthorized immigrant out of the United States based on an order of removal. An unauthorized immigrant who is removed has administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent re-entry owing to the fact of the removal. Returns are the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable unauthorized immigrant out of the United States not based on an order of removal. Most voluntary departures (returns) are of Mexican nationals who have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol and are returned to Mexico.
The government fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. All figures for immigration control and enforcement given here are for the government fiscal year.
In 2013, 19.3 million immigrants were naturalized U.S. citizens, accounting for 47 percent of the total foreign-born population (41.3 million) and 6 percent of the total U.S. population (316.1 million), according to ACS estimates.
How many immigrants naturalize?
According to DHS data, USCIS naturalized 779,929 lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in 2013. The total number of immigrants naturalized increased by 3 percent between 2012 and 2013.
From a historical perspective, the number of naturalizations has increased dramatically in recent decades. On average, 141,000 LPRs became citizens each year between 1970 and 1979, 205,000 in the 1980s, 498,000 in the 1990s, and 682,000 during the 2000s.
The number of naturalizations reached an all-time high in 2008, increasing sharply by 59 percent from 660,477 in 2007 to 1,046,539 in 2008. This came as a result of impending application fee increases and the promotion of naturalization in advance of the 2008 presidential elections. Naturalizations then fell by almost 29 percent in 2009.
What are the countries of origin of newly naturalized citizens?
Of those who naturalized in 2013, 13 percent were born in Mexico (99,385) and roughly 6 percent each in India and the Philippines (49,897 and 43,489, respectively). Immigrants from these three countries, together with those from Dominican Republic (39,590), China (35,387), Cuba (30,482), Vietnam (24,277), Haiti (23,480), Colombia (22,196), and El Salvador (18,401) comprised the top ten countries of birth for newly naturalized citizens in 2013 and accounted for half of the 779,929 new U.S. citizens that year.
Where do newly naturalized citizens live in the United States?
In 2013, 55 percent of all newly naturalized citizens lived in one of four states. California had the largest number of newly naturalized citizens, with 21 percent (164,792) of the total newly naturalized. Fourteen percent (107,330) of the newly naturalized resided in New York, 13 percent in Florida (101,773), and 7 percent in Texas (57,947).
Approximately 18 percent of those who naturalized in 2013 lived in the greater New York metropolitan area (136,513) and 9 percent each in the greater Los Angeles and Miami metropolitan areas (70,189 and 66,925, respectively). These areas, together with the greater Washington DC metropolitan area (4 percent), greater Chicago, San Francisco and Houston areas (about 3 percent each), and the greater Boston area (2 percent) were home to half of new U.S. citizens in 2013.
How many green-card holders are eligible to naturalize?
According to the latest available USCIS estimates, 13.3 million LPRs resided in the United States in January 1, 2012. Of them, about 8.8 million were eligible to naturalize.
How long does it take on average for green-card holders to naturalize?
To be naturalized, lawful permanent residents (LPRs) must meet a number of criteria, including being at least 18 years of age, having resided in the United States with LPR status continuously for at least five years, and passing English and civic exams.
According to USCIS estimates, immigrants who naturalized in 2013 spent a median of seven years in LPR status before becoming U.S. citizens. The time varied by country of origin: African born spent about 5 years in LPR status before naturalization, followed by those born in Asia and South America (both 6 years), Europe (7 years), Oceania (8 years), and North America (including Central America, 10 years).
How many visa applications for permanent immigration (green cards) are backlogged?
Two types of backlogs impact issuance of green cards. The first is due to visa availability. The government caps employment-based, permanent visas for foreign workers and their families at 140,000 per year worldwide. Family-sponsored preferences are limited to 226,000 visas per year. Also, no country can receive more than 7 percent of the total annual number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas (approximately 25,600 visas).
The second type of backlog is due to processing delays of applicants' documents, which is related to government processing capacity as well as increased background and criminal checks.
In February 2015, the U.S. government was processing some family-related visas applications filed as far back as August 1991, and was still processing some employment-related visa applications from December 2003.
In some cases, an application filed 20 years ago by a U.S. citizen to sponsor an unmarried adult child from Mexico is just now being processed in February 2015. Similarly, an application filed 23 years ago by a U.S. citizen sponsoring a sibling from the Philippines is only now being processed by USCIS. However, recent years have witnessed dramatic reductions in the backlogs for certain categories of immigrants, particularly the immediate family members (spouses and children) of LPRs.
Another useful indicator to understand the waiting times is the number of people whose documents are on hold because there are no immigrant visas available for a given family/employment preference or a given country of origin. According to data on the petitions submitted to the Department of State (DOS), there were about 4.4 million applicants (including spouses and minor children) who were on the waiting list as of November 1, 2014. The overwhelming majority were family-sponsored applicants and their immediate family members (4.3 million). About 91,000 were employment-sponsored applicants and their families. Of the overall 4.4 million applicants, 1.3 million were citizens of Mexico, followed by those from the Philippines (429,000) and India (323,000). What these DOS data do not show is the number of family- and employment-based prospective immigrants who are waiting to adjust their status to LPR from within the United States. To our knowledge, the number of people who await green cards from within the United States has not been published by USCIS. In other words, the overall number of people waiting for a green card—within and outside of the United States—is larger than the 4.4 million reported by DOS.
For more details about wait times by immigration category and country of origin, see the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin.
A Princeton PhD, was a U.S. diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Central/Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. He has taught courses for many years at Georgetown University pertaining to propaganda and public diplomacy. He currently shares ideas on the theme "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" to Eurasian/European delegates participating in the "Open World" program.
Brown’s articles have appeared in numerous publications. A recent piece is “Janus-Faced Public Diplomacy: Creel and Lippmann During the Great War” (published in Nontraditional U.S. Public Diplomacy: Past, Present, and Future).
He is the author (with S. Grant) of The Russian Empire and the USSR: A Guide to Manuscripts and Archival Materials in the United States. He also served as an editor/translator of a joint U.S.-Soviet publication, The Establishment of Russian-American Relations, 1765-1815.